City seeks funds for Herbert River land

One Assembly member wants to link land purchase to support for construction of a second crossing

Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The Juneau Assembly on Monday agreed to prepare a funding ordinance to buy 145 acres of private property near Herbert River and the Boy Scout Camp.

The Southeast Alaska Land Trust and other local groups acquired a $553,000 federal grant to purchase the land from Juneau resident William "Shorty" Tonsgard. The funding needs approval from the city and the state.

As part of the arrangement, the land trust would add a conservation easement to the property to protect the site's wetlands. The property is near state, city and federal parkland, two private youth camps and several popular trails. It borders the Herbert and Eagle rivers and features habitat for migratory birds, four species of salmon, Dolly Varden, cutthroat and steelhead trout.

The Assembly's ordinance would accept the federal grant and provide a $250,000 match for the property acquisition. But Assembly members want city staff to work with local groups to cover half of the local match with non-city money, Lands Committee Chairman Randy Wanamaker said.

The Lands Committee sponsored two public discussions in the past week about the city's lands-disposal program and other sources of funding for the Herbert River land acquisition.

At the meetings, Assembly member Dale Anderson asked groups in favor of the land acquisition to support the city's subdivision plans at Lena Point and a second crossing over Gastineau Channel. He also asked them to look for other grants and funding for the property.

"I'm struggling with the amount of property that will be taboo to touch," he said last Thursday. "If we're going to make these lands a park and take them out of developable hands, we need your financial support."

Anderson said he would be willing to contribute his own money to a fund-raising effort.

The city owns 23,000 acres in Juneau. Of that, 7,000 acres are used for city buildings, parks and facilities such as the airport and the Eaglecrest Ski Area, said City Lands Manager Steve Gilbertson. If the city acquires the property, it would be designated as a natural area park, he said.

Diane Mayer, executive director for the land trust, said the Assembly's decision to prepare the funding ordinance is a positive step. And she said the discussion about the city's land base was valuable.

"It's extremely encouraging and we don't see this as a battle," she said. "I'm really glad the city is taking action to come up with their piece of the partnership."

Mayer, though, did express some concern about trying to raise $125,000 from local nonprofits. The amount exceeds the annual membership contributions for six or seven local groups, she said.

In addition, the Southeast Alaska Land Trust needs to go back to its members to raise another $10,000 for a stewardship fund to assure the Herbert River property is protected in perpetuity, she said.

City staff members had suggested the city's portion of the funding come from a waterfront land-acquisition fund and be repaid with the city's main lands fund.

Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch said Monday he wanted the money to come from the lands fund, not the downtown waterfront acquisition fund. The waterfront fund is supported with cruise ship passenger fees, while the lands fund is supported with revenue from city land sales.



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